Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Epilepsy and Seizures

Epilepsy and Seizures

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition involving the brain that makes people more susceptible to having recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races, and ethnic background. Almost 3 million Americans live with epilepsy.

Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure. This includes a high fever, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal, or a brain concussion. Under these circumstances, anyone can have one or more seizures. However, when a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, he or she is considered to have epilepsy. There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including an imbalance of nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, tumors, strokes, and brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these. In the majority of cases, there may be no detectable cause for epilepsy.

What is a seizure?

The brain is the center that controls and regulates all voluntary and involuntary responses in the body. It consists of nerve cells that communicate with each other through electrical activity.

A seizure occurs when part(s) of the brain receives a burst of abnormal electrical signals that temporarily interrupts normal electrical brain function.

What are the different types of seizures?

The type of seizure depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected and what happens during the seizure. The two broad categories of epileptic seizures are generalized seizures (absence, atonic, tonic-clonic, myoclonic) and partial (simple and complex) seizures. Within these categories are several different types of seizures, including:

What causes a seizure?

A person may experience one or many different types of seizures. While the exact cause of the seizure may not be known, the more common seizures are caused by the following:

Other possible causes of seizures may include the following:

What are the symptoms of a seizure?

The person may have varying degrees of symptoms depending on the type of seizure. The following are general symptoms of a seizure or warning signs of seizures. Symptoms or warning signs may include:

During the seizure, the person's lips may become bluish and breathing may not be normal. The movements are often followed by a period of sleep or disorientation.

The symptoms of a seizure may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are seizures diagnosed?

The full extent of the seizure may not be completely understood immediately after onset of symptoms, but may be revealed with a comprehensive medical evaluation and diagnostic testing. The diagnosis of a seizure is made with a physical examination and diagnostic tests. During the examination, the doctor obtains a complete medical history of the person and family and asks when the seizures occurred. Seizures may be due to neurological problems and require further medical follow-up.

Diagnostic tests may include:

Treatment of a seizure

Specific treatment for a seizure will be determined by your doctor based on:

The goal of seizure management is to control, stop, or decrease the frequency of the seizures without interfering with the normal activities of daily living (ADLs). The major goals of seizure management include the following:

Treatment may include:

More information regarding the person with seizures or epilepsy

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Nervous System Disorders

 

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